And Then There Were Two

Well, the vast majority of Democratic party members haven’t yet had a chance to vote or caucus, but somehow somebody has whittled our choices down to just two Democratic presidential candidates, and– surprise!– it’s the two with the most money. The large donors and every damn broadcast media outlet decided about a month ago that it was going to be Clinton and Obama, and lo and behold, their predictions came true somehow.

I’m not saying these two aren’t fine candidates in many ways… it’s just that I was kinda hoping that the members of the party would decide who the nominee was going to be. I realize that the nominee used to be chosen behind closed doors in the bad old days, but us peons were getting kinda used to having some small voice in the process.

A month ago, I was imagining attending my local caucus, discussing the many excellent candidates (Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, Obama, Richardson) and, oh, I don’t know, maybe weighing the merit of their level of experience, platforms, and qualifications, or something, you know, and then we would all vote to decide who we thought would best represent us as president.

Guess not.

See previous posts for more on the U.S. presidential election

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~ by lolarusa on January 30, 2008.

8 Responses to “And Then There Were Two”

  1. I’m not sure what you’re complaint is. No one made Edwards drop out…he dropped out because he realized that he wasn’t getting the votes he needed to win. He doesn’t have a Democratic majority. I agree with you, I would have likely voted for him if had still been in the race when he got to lowly old Indiana…but the voters in New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada snd South Carolina told him that it wouldn’t be worth his time or effort to keep going.

    Certainly you aren’t saying he should be forced to stay in despite the fact that every primary thus far has been an admission that America (for whatever reason) isn’t ready for his message.

    I mean, you can still campaign for him if you’d like. You can still vote for him (his name will likely be on the ballot when you get there). Against all odds, he could still win in your state. But I notice that you didn’t put Evan Bayh or any other candidate that merely got to the “exploratory committee” stage of mounting a campaign.

    The “somebody” you’re complaining about are the citizens and Democratic voters of the first handful of primary states. Just sayin’.

  2. Hi JimPanzee,

    There is some truth to what you say. Edwards didn’t get majorities in the small number of states that have voted up to this point. But the “somebody” I was talking about wasn’t those voters, it was the money and media that exercises such a powerful influence on the information those voters receive.

    My point– which was perhaps expressed with a bit too much subtle sarcasm– was that Edwards and the other candidates that have already dropped out of the race were not given the same opportunities to present themselves to the voters that Clinton and Obama were given.

    With half as much money as Clinton and Obama had, and with a press that’s no longer legally bound to equal coverage of candidates, it’s surprising that Edwards has done as well as he has. Who knows what might have happened if the press was operating in the public interest, or if paid advertising wasn’t such a dominating influence in our elections?

    In the last presidential election, while there were candidates with greater momentum in their campaigns going into the caucuses, voters in our state nevertheless were able to vote their conscience. There were at least six candidates still in the race when we went to our caucuses in the last election, and each had advocates ready to speak on their behalf. The party has become much less participatory this time around.

  3. It’s true, the influence of money in the campaign is shameful, but Obama and Clinton didn’t print their money. They got it be going to big backers and proving to those people that they were both electable and the one that would most serve their interests. As sad as it may be, that’s part of politicking too.

    As far as the six candidates that stuck it out for so long last time…that was considered a bad thing for Democrats. It “proved” that there was no Democratic consensus…that there little cohesion in the party…that we were still reeling from the loss of Clinton 1. I’m not saying I agree. As I said on another blog….we could stand to have more choices in our political discussion…more representation for the diverse array of political opinions that are out there.

    Here’s to more choices next time around. Cheers. You should still vote for Edwards, consider it a protest vote. That’s likely what I will be doing.

  4. If money equaled media exposure then Huckabee would surely also be out of the race right now, but I do think the media is culpable as well as the voters in those primary states who didn’t look beyond what the media provided.

    The media wants to easily categorize stories and people. Since Edwards already ran in 2004, he was labeled passe. Clinton and Obama are great new stories. A black president or female president is a great story. I’m thinking right now of when I watch sports competitions where they do the segments about an athlete’s hardships and you know they want this athlete to win because it would make a better story.

    A Republican could argue the media isn’t focusing on any of the Republican candidates, because again none of the Republican stories are nearly as interesting as Obama and Clinton.

    As long as voters are going to use media narratives to influence their vote, then this story will repeat itself.

    It’s not much different than the days of Hearst and Pulizter.

  5. Good point on Huckabee, except that he’s just a few days away from dropping out too….which, I might add, if he does so before next Tueaday it could cause Romney to win the Republican nomination. Blech. Although, it is worth noting that most of Obama’s early money came largely from individual donors…little guys.

    Media narratives are a big deal. I’ve mentioned Edwards lack of (or disastrous) a good narrative, especially between New Hampshire and Nevada when the only thing anybody could talk about was Obama and Clnton’s third-grade antics. Meanwhile Edwards’ second place Iowa finish dissolved into nothing. By the time Nevada rolled around he was such a ghost he got only 4% of the vote. That was really too bad.

  6. I don’t think there’s a simple correlation between money and media exposure. It’s more complicated than that.

    Obviously there is a direct connection between money and paid advertising, which is not very informative, but at least gives voters some vague idea what a candidate’s stance is. Its most important influence is in simple name recognition for voters who aren’t quite as obsessed with following the elections as we seem to be.

    But I think the loss of the fairness doctrine is more to blame for the lack of balanced coverage. Media outlets have no responsibility to contribute to an informed citizenry, and are free to endlessly follow what strike them as saleable stories, with little attention given to the practical real-world implications of candidates’ messages, or even to their factual accuracy.

    What dismays me is that even public broadcasters seem to have lost much of their traditional commitment to equal coverage for candidates. NPR’s coverage of the Democratic primaries has been abysmal.

  7. My understanding of the fairness doctrine is that it 1) only applies to paid spots 2) when demanded. It’s still a law…and it only applies to spots paid for by the candidates.

    So, what you are witnessing is newsworthiness…or some perception of it. If NPR is failing to cover Democratic primaries, which I haven’t noticed, its because well, for one thing Michigan and Florida didn’t matter. So results on those days were less newsworthy than the Republican results. Also, there’s just been far less amazing stuff happening on the Democratic side. Clinton’s comeback performance was well publicized as was Obama’s surprise win in Iowa. Other than that, the other primaries have pretty much gone as anticipated. On the GOP side, on the other hand, Giuliani, after being a frontrunner disappeared, leaving Romney, McCain, and Huckabee to win the first three (not in that order). Huckabee’s win was amazing. McCain’s win was predicted but still represented an amazing comeback in the polls, not the least because he had been so derided by the Gestapo-Marching conservative set. Then, before you knew it, we were in Florida an all anybody could talk about was whether or not the previous frontrunner’s “late state” strategy was going to work. It didn’t.

    For all that, Obama and Clinton (at least) got some news for their debate antics. As did Clinton’s tearing up at a Q&A, Obama’s Oprah endorsement.

    Generally I agree with you. I think Edwards being the middle-aged white guy with the traditional Democratic platform wasn’t seen as newsworthy and so the press concentrated on Obama and Clinton. Then, after awhile they had concentrated on it for so long that the story became “Does the press hate Clinton?” Which of course the press themselves covered, drawing more attention to Clinton to the detriment, not of Obama, but of Edwards.

    And I also think you’re right about the more complicated connection between money and media exposure. For one thing, a candidate can get free media exposure when the media carries stories about the ads a candidate buys/runs or doesn’t buy/doesn’t run. The candidate can get free exposure when the press reports how much money a candidate made (a lot/not nearly enough/far less or more than their competitor).

    When you get a lot of money and a big endorsement you tend to get more money and more endorsements…all of which the press reports which means … more money and more endorsements. If the press reports that you aren’t getting any money or endorsements…or if they don’t report anything…then you don’t get any money or endorsements….which they will report just in time to sink your campaign all the more.

  8. Actually, the fairness doctrine didn’t distinguish between advertising and programming. The rule is described by the Museum of Broadcast Communications (which opposes it) and PBS Now (which supports it), as a mandate that broadcasters had “an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance”. And it is no longer law. It was struck down during the Reagan era deregulations.

    As far as the sometimes entertaining stories about who’s collecting more campaign money and who seemed petulant or teary-eyed or what-have-you, I agree that NPR covered the heck out of it. But that’s not what I call “discussing contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance”. It’s not the quantity, but the quality that’s been abysmal.

    Thanks to both of you for the thoughtful comments, by the way.

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